Posts

Teriyaki Pork Belly

Introduction:

Teriyaki has a little place in the corner of my soul. When I was a backpacker I descended upon Melbourne only as a pit stop in the adventure of a global trip. Fourteen years later and I am still in Melbourne, and in part I blame teriyaki.

I arrived in St Kilda, Melbourne in the March of 2000 to attend my first ever Grand Prix. Four days of testosterone for viewers and participants alike. It was during these four days, but not at the Grand Prix itself, that I set my eyes upon a young Australian lass, and those looks were reciprocated. But it wasn’t to be anything more than that because I had my sights set on continuing my global travels. We did decide to meet up, and I remember meeting her off the tram and then heading for a cheap eat – I was a backpacker after all. And that is when for the first time in my life I discovered teriyaki chicken. I was swept away in the euphoria of attraction both for that young lass and the sweet and salty glaze on that chicken. As hours turned in to days, and days into weeks the bond became unbreakable, which is why today I sit here writing this little story with that same young Australian lass across the dinner table, and teriyaki looking longingly in to my eyes.

This recipe is for belly pork, but the sauce also goes wonderfully with chicken, of course!

 

Serves: 4   |   Preparation: 25 minutes   |   Cooking: 2 hours

 

Ingredients:

For the Pork Belly:
1kg Pork belly deboned | A butcher can do this if you’re not game.
~2 litres Water | This amount will vary depending on pan size.
1½ tsp. Sea salt |
1 Cinnamon stick |
1 Star anise pod |
6 Black peppercorns | Whole.
2 Cloves Garlic | Halved.
1 Brown onion | Roughly chopped.

For the Teriyaki Sauce:
1 Stalk Lemongrass | White part only.
15g Fresh root ginger | No need to peel it – just make sure it is clean.
200ml Chicken stock | See here for a great chicken stock recipe.
200ml Light soy sauce |
300g Castor sugar | It seems a lot but teriyaki is sweet by nature.
200g Runny honey |

 

 

How To:

Firstly, put the pork belly in to a large pan so that it lays flat. Add the water so that the pork is well covered (more than 2 litres of water if required). Now add the salt, cinnamon, star anise, black peppercorns, halved garlic cloves and chopped onion. Bring the water to a simmer and then cook the pork, covered, for 1½ hours, topping up with hot water if required. Gently, remove the pork from the water and allow it to cool on a chopping board. Preheat an oven to 180 deg. C (350 deg. F).

Now make the teriyaki sauce. Bash the ginger and lemongrass stalk with the end of a rolling pin or some other blunt instrument (preferably not the head). To a medium saucepan add the chicken stock, soy sauce, sugar, honey, ginger and lemongrass. Heat over a medium heat and bring to the boil whilst stirring to dissolve the sugar. Continue to boil for 15 minutes and then strain the sauce through a fine meshed sieve. The teriyaki sauce is ready.

Now the pork has cooled, cut it in to 2cm strips and place it in single layer in a roasting tin. Pour over the teriyaki sauce ensuring that all the pork belly is coated. Roast the pork in the oven for 30 minutes, frequently basting it with the teriyaki and roasting juices.

Serve the pork with spoonfuls of the sauce. Here I served it with greens cooked in soy sauce, and sticky rice.

Lemongrass and Chilli Chicken

Introduction:

After a morning’s trek with my seven year old son through the misty terraced rice fields that are home to the Hmong tribe, we are approached by a young man who calls himself Alex, or his helmet does, a member of this tribal community in Northern Vietnam. He is wearing non-traditional clothing for his day job – motorcycling tourists back to the main hill station of Sapa.

The month is January, a few weeks before Vietnam celebrates Tet, the festivities of the lunar New Year.

After I agree to take a ride from Alex we talk about life here in the village, and he tells me that their main livelihood is rice; rice feeds the village as well as provides the villagers with income (some of the women of the tribe also earn money by selling locally made crafts to tourists). He tells me that the whole year revolves around two events: the harvesting of the rice and Tet. Rice is the heartbeat of this community and each grain is sown, tended and hand-picked with the utmost care.

As we wend our way through the village to where Alex’s motorcycle is waiting we sidestep and dodge chickens, wild pigs, cows and irritated looking dogs. Alex explains that Tet is the time of year where all the family, including those that have flown the nest of the village to try their luck in modern-day Vietnam, return and celebrate with food and drink. When I asked about the drink he smiled and then giggled

“This is why rice is so important because it makes us even happier and funnier when we drink it”.

He’s referring to the locally brewed rice wine which forms a traditional part of the Lunar New Year celebrations.

We talk about food. He points at some of the animals wandering around and says that they are being prepared for the celebrations, “we eat the whole of the animal, especially the chicken. The whole chicken represents abundance and prosperity and this is the thing we cling to every year – the abundance of rice and prosperity for all our family wherever they are”.

As we approach the motorcycle, I have a wonderful respect for this kind of life; it is hard and parts of it I wouldn’t want, but the importance of food, of family and of having a belief that things will turn out for the good made me feel good. My son’s eyes were also opened to a new world, a new culture and an understanding of life beyond the distractions of our everyday life.

As was customary I haggled a price before the trip up the hill. The journey up the muddy steep track was hair raising but great fun. The last part was so steep that I had to disembark from the motorcycle and walk the rest, whilst Alex continued on with my son to Sapa. When I arrived we smiled, embraced and I paid him, with a little extra. That was the last I saw of Alex.

The humble chicken is such an important part of Vietnamese culture and its presence as a symbolic food is all around; from the blue legged chickens that I saw in Sapa market to the iconic dish of Pho Ga (chicken noodle soup) that is present in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. My memory of this beautiful trip to Vietnam is given to you by means of a dish that I cooked at a cooking class in Sapa; a chicken dish of course. I hope it provides you abundance and prosperity.

 

Serves: 2   |   Preparation:   15 minutes   |   Cooking: 30 minutes marinade + 10 minutes cooking

 

Ingredients:

200g Chicken breast or thigh fillet | Cut in to bite sized pieces.
2 cloves Garlic | 1 minced; 1 finely chopped.
2 x 2cm pieces Ginger | 1 minced; 1 finely chopped.
2 tbsp. Peanut oil |
½ medium Brown onion | Chopped.
3 stalks Lemongrass | White part only – finely sliced.
1 medium Red chilli Finely chopped – a medium heat chilli is great.
1 medium Red pepper Chopped.
1 medium Green pepper Chopped.
2 tsp. Soy sauce |
2 tsp. Oyster sauce |
2 Spring onions | White part sliced into 1cm pieces.
1 sprig Coriander and Thai basil | For garnish.

 

 

How To:

To a bowl add the chicken, the minced garlic clove, the minced ginger and some salt and pepper to season, mix well and leave to marinade for 30 minutes.

To a wok add the peanut oil and when hot add the finely chopped clove of garlic, the finely chopped piece of ginger, the onion and lemongrass. Stir fry for about a minute over a medium heat until lightly golden. Take care not burn any of the ingredients as it will add an unwanted bitterness to the dish.

Up the heat to high and add the marinated chicken pieces, chilli, and the red and green peppers. Stir well, and then add the soy sauce and oyster sauce.

Stir fry for a further 2 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked. Now add the coriander/ Thai basil and the spring onions and toss for 10 seconds. Serve immediately with steamed rice and garnish with some coriander or Thai basil.

Thai Green Curry Paste

The light penetrated the tiny apertures, known to me as eyes. Sensations began to return to my toes, feet, legs, body, head… and brain. The surroundings became focused in contrast to the Gaussian blur from a few hours previous. The land I was in was an unknown, an eastern paradise that had magnetised this wet behind the ears traveller. For 48 hours I had been consumed by this city; but what happened? Ten years before movies with a group of blokes forgetting themselves in Vegas and Bangkok were in vogue, this happened:

It started off with a green curry. The highest expectation I had of this land was the promise of the magical chicken green curry, a dish that I first experienced at an establishment next door to the Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. When I say next door it was opposite Windsor Castle, the Thai Castle as it was known. But now I was in Khao San Road and the dish was exquisite, as was the Singha beer, which I believe with the single malt whisky that my newly found Swedish travelling partner had procured was the start of 48 hours in Bangkok.

After socialising with the world’s travelling fraternity in this most famous of backpacking roads my Swedish friend and I were accosted by the most painfully boring Englishman (this is an anomaly, please believe me) that caused us to decide to either a) go back to the ‘hotel’ and call it a night, or b) carry on. There wouldn’t be much story if I told you that we chose ‘a’, so ‘b’ it was. Wouldn’t it be cool to grab a tuk-tuk at 3am in the morning and tour Bangkok? With Chang beer in tow, we grabbed a tuk-tuk and for two hours had the most incredible guided tour – down back alleys, traversing roads of neon lights, past beautifully lit temples and pagodas; a city that never seemed to sleep.

On our return to Khao San two hours later we seamlessly joined back with the party until day broke. Then it was straight to breakfast were we met a fantastic American dude who had just spent 5 years doing time in a high security penitentiary, part of which he was cooking for some mafia boss. You couldn’t write about it could you?

We spent the rest of the 48 hours with this guy which from the hazy recollections involved playing cards with motorcyclists; walking through the back door of some building down a back alley only to end up walking through the kitchen of a major hotel restaurant; the Englishman, the Swede and the American whistling some anthem whilst casually smiling at the head chef and giving an ‘a-ok’ to the presentation; arm wrestling with locals for baht, playing darts with some Norwegians, drinking local whisky with some dodgy dudes from somewhere in the world, boating down the river with some Danes, eating street food ranging from bugs (come on you have to try it once) to coconut and banana fritters, and eventually arriving back at the hotel 48 hours later; stupefied, exhausted, exhilarated and slightly worse for wear.

Of all that I did in those wonderful times travelling the memories of the food has always stuck with me, and in particular that Thai green curry has. I can’t promise you 48 hours in Bangkok but what I can promise is that my version of Thai green curry paste has been through as many adventures to arrive at its present form, and I am sure you’ll love it. By the way I didn’t end up with a Mike Tyson tattoo or a missing tooth.

 

Serves: 8 Servings   |   Preparation:  20-30 minutes   |   Cooking: 2-3 minutes

 

Ingredients:

3 Stalks  Lemongrass | Use the heart only. Remove the outer layer and then finely chop the white part.
6 Green Chilli | Use chillies with medium heat. Use 3 seeded and 3 deseeded. Finely chop.
2 cloves Garlic | Peeled and sliced.
40g (when peeled) Galangal | Peeled and chopped.
1 bunch Coriander plus roots | Clean the roots and finely chop. Chop the leaves.
½ tbsp. Cumin seeds | Toast in a hot pan until fragrant and then grind.
1 tbsp. Coriander seeds | Toast in a hot pan until fragrant and then grind.
½ tsp. Black peppercorns | Toast in a hot pan until fragrant and then grind.
1 lime Lime zest | Grated.
1 lime Lime juice | Use the same lime that was zested (above).
20g Shrimp paste (belacan) | Wrap in foil and heat under a hot grill for about 2 minutes. Unwrap from the oil.
3 tbsp. Nam pla (fish sauce) |  
50g Asian shallots | Finely chopped. Asian shallots have a purplish skin.
1 large Kaffir lime leaf | Or two small. Remove the central vein and finely chop.
2 tbsp. Peanut oil |

 

 

How To:

Prepare the ingredients as per their relevant notes. Put all ingredients in to a food processor and blitz until smooth. I find that a food processor doesn’t produce a paste as smooth as I like, so after processing I then blitz the paste with a hand blender, which really does the job quite superbly.

Another way is to put all the ingredients in a large mortar and pestle and to pound and then grind. This takes a bit of muscle power and energy, but the final paste is excellent.

You can store this in sterilised jars in the fridge for a few weeks. For a curry for four people I usually use half of the total amount of curry paste produced in this recipe.

Notes:

  • I will post recipes using this paste in future blogs.

Sri Lankan Chicken Curry

Introduction:

Sri Lanka – one of the places I dearly wish to travel to but have yet to have the pleasure. I would love to see the wonderful country: the beaches and the rainforests; to see the mad Lankans supporting their beloved cricket team (I have Sri Lankan friends so I can vouch for the cricket passion); the high hills with their tea plantations; the history and culture; and of course to eat – no, let that be gorge – the wonderful food.

So what makes a Sri Lankan Chicken curry Sri Lankan? From what I have read and eaten it seems Sri Lankan food is a fusion of the spices from India and the freshness and piquancy of South East Asia.  Fire, citrus and earthiness calmed down with the exotic milk of the coconut. The recipe here is something that I have adapted over a number of years, from various sources. Inspiration has been from close Sri Lankan friends to the wonderful Charmaine Solomon and the inspirational Madhur Jaffrey, as well as my travels to South India, the cuisine of which has similarities to that of Sri Lanka.

The first part of the recipe is jointing the chicken. If you can find it then procure an organic grain fed chicken that’s had a cracking (that means ‘great’ in Yorkshire parlance) life.  The flavour and texture is far superior to most other chickens.

 

Serves: 4   |   Preparation:  30-40 minutes   |   Cooking: About 1 hour 15 minutes

 

Ingredients:

1.6kg Chicken | Jointed in to 8 pieces with skin on; drumsticks, thighs, wings and breasts – I cut each breast piece in half, making 10 pieces in total.
2 Medium Brown onions | Peeled and roughly chopped.
2 Birds eye chillies | Roughly chopped. I like a little fire in this curry so add the seeds. For a milder version discard seeds or use a milder chilli.
30g Fresh ginger | Try and find succulent ginger. A lot of ginger sold is old and fibrous.
2 cloves Garlic | Roughly chopped.
4 tbsp. Peanut oil | 1 tbsp. used in the onion paste, the rest is used for frying.
1½ tsp. Fenugreek seeds | Magnificently fragrant, especially when added to hot oil.
1 sprig of about 10-15 leaves Fresh curry leaves | I buy them in bulk and freeze them – nothing like the crackle, spit and aroma when they hit hot oil.
2 tbsp. Coriander seeds | Toasted and ground.
1 tbsp. Cumin seeds | Toasted and ground.
1 tsp. Fennel seeds | Toasted and ground.
1 tsp. Turmeric – ground | Used to colour, but also has a wonderfully earthy flavour.
1 tsp. Smoky paprika | Not necessarily a ‘Sri Lankan’ ingredient but I like the subtle smoky notes.
1 tbsp. Sea Salt | As a seasoning.
1 tbsp. Rice wine vinegar | Adds a piquancy to the curry.
1 stick Cinnamon | Make sure it is a cinnamon stick as opposed to cassia bark, which is less pungent.
6 Black cardamom pods | Crack with the back of a knife to release its flavour and aroma.
400g Chopped Tomatoes | Either peel and chop 3-4 large ripened tomatoes, or as I do use a tin of chopped tomatoes – which works equally as well.
1 Lemongrass | Bruise lightly, remove the ends and outer skin. Peel away and tie each layer in a knot.
200ml Coconut Milk | If you are feeling adventurous then extract your milk from a fresh coconut – otherwise a tin is by far the easier way to go.
½ lemon Lemon juice | Added just before serving gives a great but subtle piquancy to the curry.

 

 

How To:

I am assuming that the chicken is already jointed in to wonderfully cut organic pieces.

Firstly I prepare the onion paste by adding the onion, garlic, chilli, ginger and 1 tablespoon of peanut oil to a food processor, and then blitz until a course puree is achieved. If you want to use a mortar and pestle instead then cut the ingredients so they are finer.

Next heat a small frying pan on a medium heat. When breathing (the haze that rises from the pan – similar to seeing the mirage of water on a road’s horizon in summer) add the coriander seed, then 10 seconds later the cumin and then 10 second later the fennel seed. When you can see the seeds starting to brown then remove from the heat (don’t let them burn). At this stage I add the seeds to a spice grinder along with the turmeric, smoky paprika and the sea salt. Grind until the spice mix is a fine powder. This can be done in a mortar and pestle – if doing it this way then pass the powder through a sieve and any parts that do not pass through the sieve grind again.

Put a large heavy based pan on a medium to high heat. When breathing add the remaining peanut oil (3 tablespoons) and then add the fenugreek seeds and curry leaves – it will spit. When the curry leaves start to darken, but not burn, add the onion paste, and stir vigorously to prevent sticking. Turn the heat to low-medium and then continue to stir until the onion has softened, but not browned. Turn the heat up to medium and add the spice mix and rice wine vinegar. Stir until mixed – the mix will be dry at this point. Add the chicken and stir for a minute ensuring the chicken is coated in the spice mix and is starting to brown.

Now add the tomatoes, cardamom pods and cinnamon stick. Stir, and then lay the tied lemongrass layers on top. Cover the pan and turn the heat down to its lowest. Cook for about 45-50 minutes.

Carefully remove and discard the lemon grass ties, and then gently stir the curry ensuring that the chicken meat remains intact. Add the coconut milk and cook on low, uncovered for about 10 minutes. Just prior to serving squeeze in the lemon juice. I usually serve the curry with coconut rice or plain roti.

 

Notes:

  • Traditionally the sauce is thick, and clings to the meat. If you want this then reduce till desired. I do like plenty of sauce, so don’t reduce it as much.
  • Pre-ground spices can be used of course, and will give you great results. Toasting and grinding your own takes it to another level though.
  • There was to be a ‘finished product’ photo at the end, however, an impromptu street dinner involving the aforementioned curry put an end to that…though it was great to share it with friends.